Over its long history, “gospel” is at times used in general or specific senses depending on context. For example, the Old Testament Hebrew terms to convey “good news” in general (often announcing military victory) are translated by the OT Greek version with the same New Testament term for “gospel” that also carries this general connotation of “good news.”
Notably, before the Cross and Resurrection, both John the Baptist (Mark 1:14) and Jesus (Matthew 4:23) refer to the “gospel” as the “good news” of the coming of the kingdom of God. That good news about God’s kingdom is narrower than “good news” in general but is not what we usually mean when we talk about the “gospel” of Jesus.
In a yet more narrow sense, “Gospel” can refer to the written testimonies found in the “Gospel of St. Matthew,” or those of Mark, Luke, and John.
But it is Paul who narrows “gospel” specifically to refer to Christ’s death and resurrection that through faith gives us salvation and eternal life. The work of Christ for our salvation is what most Christians mean when referring to “sharing the gospel.”
WHAT IS THE CONTENT OF THE GOSPEL WE SHARE?
But what exactly is the content of the gospel of Jesus? Paul reminds the Corinthians of the core message of the gospel that he delivered to them, in which they also believed.
1 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…
(1 Corinthians 15:1-4 / ESV)
Here in its most compact form, we find the content of the “gospel” message. Let’s look closely at it.
- (verse 1-2) THE GOSPEL IS “RECEIVED” by faith and held fast throughout life. Knowing the truth is not the same as trusting in Jesus as the source of our forgiveness and life.
- (verse 3a) THE GOSPEL IS ABOUT JESUS CHRIST. Jesus is completely God (or He would not be perfect), and He is completely man (or He could not have died in our place).
- (verse 3b) THE GOSPEL IS ABOUT JESUS DYING FOR OUR SINS. Someone has to die for our sins because the wages of sin is death. At the Cross Jesus took our sin and gave us the right standing to have peace with God.
- (verse 3c) CHRIST’S WORK IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH SCRIPTURE. We should also refer to the authority of Scripture when sharing the gospel.
- (verse 4) CHRIST WAS BURIED AND ROSE ON THE THIRD DAY. The Cross and Resurrection are the bookends of our salvation— canceling the debt of our sin giving us eternal life.
To summarize, the message of the gospel is that Jesus died for our sins in our place, that He rose from the dead on the third day to give us eternal life, and that to receive this “good news” we must choose to place our faith in Jesus.
THE EFFECTS OF THE GOSPEL
The effects of receiving this gospel bring transformation within the life of each believer, who in turn can bring transformation to the city and world through the community of believers—the “church.” There can be no lasting change that ignores the core issues of sin within the heart of each person and within the cities and nations throughout the country and world. The “gospel” is rooted in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Authored by Dr. David F. Ingrassia, Stewarding Pastor of Charlotte Awake